Open Letter to the Pen Project by Bryce Johnson (Arizona)

December 2015

To the Writers of the Pen Project,

I would like to start by thanking you for allowing me to read your work. As a writer, I know how difficult it can be to submit your writing to be read and reviewed by others, and so I truly appreciate the trust you placed in me and my colleagues.

Writing is a beautiful way to express yourself, and it can be so healing as well. Never be afraid that something you are writing won’t be received well, or that you might be perceived a certain way for writing it. We don’t write because we want others to read the words we put down on the page—we write because we want others to feel the emotions we carry inside ourselves. So write without fear of judgment; write without fear of failure. Judgment and failure will happen whether you write or not. We are all judged for the things we do; we will all fail at one point or another. So instead of holding back your deepest thoughts and feelings for fear of someone’s reacting negatively to them, let those thoughts and feelings unfurl on the page in the hopes that someone out there will read them and connect with your thoughts and empathize with your feelings. Know that when that happens that person will understand you in a way that can only happen through reading the words from someone’s heart.

The circumstances of our lives shape so much of who we are, and when we are able to put on paper the things that we feel it can be a life-changing experience. I hope you all continue to submit to the project and to grow as writers. We each have a voice that can never be truly taken from us. Keep expressing yourselves through your writing. As Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”

Tell your stories, express your emotions, and let your imaginations soar. If you do, you will be changed. You will be changed, and so will anyone who reads what you write.

Thank you again,

Bryce Johnson